On Thursday, August 24, 2023, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a public reprimand and one-year suspended suspension for attorney Donald F. Brown for violations of Maine’s professional conduct rules.

The case is entitled “Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Donald F. Brown,” case no. 2023 ME 58.

The charges cited Brown’s violation of Maine Bar Rule 5(e)(3), and Maine Rules of Professional Conduct 1.7(a)(2), 8.4(a) and 8.4(c), which provide:

 A lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict-of-interest exists if . . .there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients would be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client, or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to violate or attempt to violate any provision of either the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct or the Maine Bar Rules, or knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another.

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

The court found Brown violated rules related to completing required continuing legal education (CLE) credits and representing a client with whom he had a personal relationship.

Brown was admitted to the Maine bar in 1997. In February 2020, he realized he had not completed any CLE credits for 2019 as required. The deadline was February 28. Brown purchased an online CLE package but had scheduling conflicts for some live courses. He asked a staff member, Tammy May, to complete three live courses by signing in with his credentials. After May completed the courses for Brown, he allowed the CLE provider to report to the Board of Overseers of the Bar that he had completed them himself.

In a separate matter, Brown began a sexual relationship with a client, T.F., in 2014. He later represented her in a 2018 motion related to a prior divorce. Their sexual relationship continued while he represented her on this matter. In fall 2019, Brown began representing T.F. in a divorce from her then-husband M.P., a protection from abuse action, and an unrelated foreclosure. Around this time, Brown and T.F. started regularly staying at each other’s homes. Brown never obtained T.F.’s written consent to the representation despite the personal relationship.

The court found Brown violated rules related to dishonesty and misrepresentation regarding the CLE credits. It also found he improperly represented T.F. despite a concurrent conflict of interest posed by their personal relationship.

The court imposed a one-year suspension for the CLE violation, with the suspension fully stayed subject to conditions like monitoring. It also imposed a public reprimand for the conflict of interest with T.F. The court found these sanctions were within the discretion of the single justice who heard the case.

The order states:

“In imposing sanctions for Counts 1 and 2 in this case, the single justice appropriately applied the four prongs of Maine Bar Rule 21(c) and looked to the American Bar Association’s Standards for Imposing Lawyer Sanctions for additional guidance.

A one-year suspended suspension of Brown’s license, with its accompanying probation and monitoring order, was not an inappropriate sanction for Count 1. Likewise, a public reprimand was not an inappropriate sanction for Count 2. Put simply, the sanctions applied here were ‘neither overly harsh nor outside of the [single justice’s] broad discretion.”

According to Avvo.com, Mr. Donald F. Brown attended Roger Williams University School of Law, graduating in 1997. Brown has been admitted to practice in Maine in 1997.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.